Friends, fans honor Barry Goldwater
PRESCOTT - The way he was talking to Prescottonians on Wednesday, you'd think Barry Goldwater Jr. was visiting his childhood home.
It was heartwarming to see someone from the Goldwater family still loving Prescott exactly 50 years after Barry Goldwater stood on the steps of the Yavapai County Courthouse to kick off his presidential campaign.
Old friends, long-time admirers and historians were among those gathered across the street at Hotel St. Michael's Wednesday for the "Goldwater Remembrance Rally" to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that campaign kickoff.
"Tommy!" Goldwater ex-claimed when he saw Jersey Lilly Saloon owner Tommy Meredith walking toward him.
"You own a bar down here?" Goldwater asked.
"If you've got time, we'll go up," chimed in Prescott Mayor Marlin Kuykendall, who like Meredith has known the Goldwater family for decades.
"I used to have a key to his house," laughed Meredith, who was buddies with Barry Goldwater Jr. at Arizona State University. He remembers the Goldwater family placing a cannon next to the pool and shooting off powder on New Year's Eve.
Kuykendall brought along two treasured Goldwater photos at Wednesday's rally to set up next to the extensive Goldwater campaign collection of Yavapai County Republican Party Vice Chair L.G. Mace, who displayed everything from buttons to hats to a rare umbrella.
One photo showed Kuykendall and other Arizona National Guard members standing with Barry Goldwater at the VA in Prescott in 1959.
Another is a signed Goldwater portrait Goldwater sent to the Kuykendalls after they hosted a campaign party for him in Prescott in 1968.
Kuykendall made more than one visit to the Goldwater home and his office in D.C. "His office looked like an Indian trading post" with all the katsinas and rugs, Kuykendall recalled.
And his receptionist was the daughter of Prescott College founder Ron Nairn.
"He loved Prescott," Kuykendall said of the late Goldwater.
Noel Campbell, who just made it through the Republican primary for the Arizona House of Representatives in District 1, was Barry Goldwater Jr.'s roommate in Los Angeles shortly after college.
Campbell talked Wednesday about being a taxi driver and male model for the May Company who drove Barry Goldwater around whenever he was in town.
"We had some good times," Goldwater Jr. said of his early days with Campbell. "Neither one of us ended up in jail so that was good."
Kuykendall recalled the presidential campaign kickoff 50 years ago. "It was a big event," Kuykendall said. "Prescott had never seen news media like that."
Republican stalwart Joan Bigley reminisced about that day, too.
"I was there on the lawn with my 4-year-old son and telling him it was quite a story, but he didn't remember it," she said at Wednesday's event.
Barry Goldwater Jr. offered some fascinating insights into his family during a speech at Wednesday's rally.
He said he doesn't often talk in detail about his father because he lived in his father's shadow much of his life, even though he was already serving in Congress while his father was still a U.S. senator.
He thanked Mace for bringing the extensive Goldwater campaign collection and told him if he ever gets tired of it, he could donate it to the Goldwater library that's going to be built in Mesa to house his father's papers and foster research.
He recalled his family's long history with Prescott, where his Uncle Morris was a long-time mayor. Morris and his brothers Henry and Baron (Barry's father) opened a Goldwater mercantile store in Prescott in 1876.
Inspired by his Uncle Morris' numerous public offices at the local and state level, Barry first announced his own candidacy for the U.S. Senate on the Yavapai County Courthouse steps in 1952 and made it a tradition thereafter.
"This is a great city with a great history, and one that my family was very much a part of," Goldwater Jr. said Wednesday.
His father was sometimes a reluctant leader of the conservative movement, he said, but he took on the liberal New York establishment at the 1964 Republican convention because they had no political philosophy or game plan. "They just kind of went along, and my father would have none of that," Barry Jr. recalled.
Although Barry lost the race for president, the conservative movement has caught fire these days, Barry Jr. said.
"Most people believe in liberty, they believe in justice, and they want to be left alone," Barry Jr. said.
Other Republican candidates have followed Goldwater's footsteps up the Yavapai County Courthouse steps, including John McCain when he launched his presidential campaign in 2008.
McCain issued a news release Wednesday to honor the 50th anniversary of his predecessor.
"Barry recognized he was a long shot to win the presidency in 1964," McCain said. "But he felt the Republican Party and the country needed some straight talk about old values, and he figured he was the man to give it to them the loudest.
"So he did, knowing the slings and arrows he would suffer, but confident that his course was honorable. And he ended that campaign, as he ended his political career 22 years later, his personal integrity unblemished, his honor unassailable."
Follow Joanna Dodder on Twitter @joannadodder.